Vacation rental metasearch engine HomeToGo has had a good run since it launched in 2014. In less than three years, the Europe-based startup was helped along by a $20 million Series B funding round from Insight Venture Partners in 2016 and has since grown to include inventory of more than 11 million properties across 250 providers in 16 different markets globally. To date, it offers the largest selection of vacation rental properties in the countries in which it operates.
Dominik Schwarz, vice president of marketing and communications at HomeToGo says:
“The vacation rental market is super fractioned with hundreds of providers, but in some markets, smaller providers can outnumber larger providers like Airbnb by hundreds of thousands of properties. But these smaller companies don’t have the marketing budget to be visible to everyone and we give them the opportunity to have that visibility alongside larger providers.”
Next on the docket for the vacation rental startup is a new tool that will allow users to search by season, comparing pricing and options across various weeks with a given time period. Schwarz explains:
“You may not have specific dates in mind, but if your kids are on vacation in June and July and you know you ant to go for a week during that timeframe, this tool will compare prices and available accommodation choices between weeks during that season. Vacation rentals are so seasonal that one week can make a huge difference in pricing.”
The tool is a convenient time-saving measure for consumers who would otherwise have to search specific dates across sites like VRBO, Expedia’s HomeAway and 9Flats.com, all of which feature inventory on HomeToGo’s metasearch engine.
“Rather than make customers do all of this in 20 different searches, we do all of the potential searches with just one search. We’re fully focused on creating an easy product where users can research.”
The end game is to go beyond capturing travelers who are at the point of purchase, but to also start luring travel consumers while they’re in the earlier inspiration phase of the purchase path.
“Now we offer a tool to travelers in all phases of the travel purchase process and I think more and more companies will start building these types of products for inspiration.”
However, he also notes that HomeToGo first launched with a tool that offered a dateless search for a specific geographic location, adding that its value is minimal as it doesn’t allow for exact pricing or even estimates. Yet with this new tool, HomeToGo can show pricing details for all vacation rental providers across destinations as wide ranging as countries or as specific as states, cities or neighborhoods. He claims:
“No other metasearch engine can provide this level of detail because none of our competitors have so many objects to consider. We can tell users if accommodations with a pool will be more expensive or what the added cost will be of brining a pet along.”
But Schwarz doesn’t undersell HomeToGo’s success either, pointing out that the site’s conversion rates are proof that its model works. Yet the addition of new tools to bring customers in at the inspiration stage can only help enhance that conversion rate and with that in mind, HomeToGo is planning a second tool whereby groups can weigh in with their individual wish lists for an upcoming trip.
The tool is targeted at families with older kids whose opinions are strong enough to influence parents’ final decision. It begins with a wish list that determines a broader destination and then drills down further by providing users inspiration on local activities and relevant vacation rentals so that the combined wish list will ultimately show the top three vacation rentals that meet everyone’s criteria. Schwarz says:
“This will help attract people to our site, making the search easier and more convenient for users so that our conversion rate will hopefully go up.”